Evidently Citizens Defending Freedom – Nassau believes freedom isn’t for everybody.
CDF’s meeting at American Beach Thursday night was off limits to local media and certain people it felt weren’t embracing the group’s “you must think like us” doctrine.
A Fernandina Observer reporter and several people had registered for the CDF event, were issued tickets, but at the 11th hour were told via email they were not welcome. CDF did allow the online Citizens Journal to attend.
Even though the CDF meeting was being held at a county building, Nassau County Sheriff’s Department informed those who were told not to attend that if they showed up for the meeting they would be trespassing. (We haven’t yet confirmed that this is a correct reading of the law, but we don’t argue with law enforcement officers unless a judge has ruled against them.)
CDF obviously doesn’t consider the principle of free speech and the role of the media as the fourth estate as the cornerstones of a democratic society. A healthy democracy thrives on the free flow of information, differing perspectives, and a generous exchange of ideas. However, banning people who think differently than Citizens Defending Freedom raises serious concerns about the organization’s commitment to these fundamental principles.
CDF – Nassau Executive Director Jack Knocke did not respond to an email requesting a comment on cherry-picking who could attend the CDF event.
Our nation’s founding fathers valued a free and independent press. Thomas Jefferson griped continuously about the newspapers of his era – but he kept stacks of them by his bed at Monticello and read them all. Apparently they didn’t disturb his sleep.
CDF is a non-profit organization. What other Amelia Island non-profit prohibits people from attending its meetings? The answer is none.
An organization like CDF that claims to defend freedom should, by definition, embrace the principles of openness, inclusivity, and free expression. CDF must understand that the right to free speech is not limited to its own members or supporters alone, but extends to all individuals, including members of the media. By attempting to control the narrative and exclude dissenting voices, Citizens Defending Freedom subverts its own credibility and exposes a fundamental contradiction of its stated mission.
CDF’s mission states: “Citizens Defending Freedom is an organization that empowers and equips American citizens to defend their freedoms and liberties at the local level. By streamlining and simplifying activism, we support and champion American citizens who want to stand up for their independence.”
Shelia Cocchi has been an active critic of CDF and its actions opposing the Pride Festival/Parade and a recent drag queen bingo event that raised money to fund college scholarships.
She obtained a ticket to the CDF event, but was informed by Knocke that she could not attend. “Hostile press and disruptors are NOT welcome,” Knocke’s notice to Cocchi said. Linda Hart Green, an occasional Fernandina Observer contributor and an ordained minister, was also told not to attend.
When CDF actively avoids diverse viewpoints and only permits media outlets that align with its ideology, it creates an echo chamber. What’s wrong with echo chambers? They reinforce pre-existing beliefs, strangle critical thinking, and breed intolerance toward differing opinions. A healthy democracy encourages the collision of ideas and encourages stout debate.
By shutting out dissenting voices, Citizens Defending Freedom risks becoming an insular group disconnected from the realities and concerns of our Amelia Island society.
Editor’s note: The Observer welcomes thoughtful commentaries when submitted. The opinions expressed in any commentary are solely those of the writer.